A week of Mortlach reviews began on Monday with a 10 yo bourbon cask bottled by Signatory and continued on Wednesday with a 12 yo sherry cask bottled by Sovereign for K&L. It concludes today with a 20 yo bottled by Gordon & MacPhail from a refill sherry hogshead. As I’ve said before, Mortlach usually shows its best side in the context of sherry maturation and this week’s reviews bear that out. Will a refill sherry cask be as good of a frame for Mortlach’s spirit as the darker 12 yo sherry cask was? If the cask was relatively spent then the extra eight years of maturation may not mean much in terms of imparting sherry character. In any event, I think the point I would make is that what we think of when we think of Mortlach’s “distillery character” is not just the character of the spirit as produced through distillation but also the character of that spirit as transformed through sherry cask maturation—see here for a post from several years ago that goes into this idea of “distillery character” at more length. At any rate, it’s interesting to try a distillery’s spirit from three different types of oak in close juxtaposition. Let’s see how this goes. Continue reading
As you may remember from Monday’s review, this week is a Mortlach week. This in order to try to redress the weak impression people who don’t know the distillery’s spirit well may have received from last Friday’s review of the official 14 yo for travel retail. Well, while Monday’s 10 yo release from Signatory was better, it didn’t exactly light my hair on fire either. Will that happen with today’s 12 yo? On the plus side, it is a sherry butt and Mortlach generally shows its best side with heavy sherry maturation. On the less than plus side, this was bottled for K&L and sold for just about $60. A seeming good deal at K&L can often/sometimes (depending on your point of view) be too good to be true. Hopefully this is not one of those cases. Certainly, I was not overly impressed by the last cask of K&L Mortlach I reviewed—which, like Monday’s Signatory, was also a bourbon cask. Was this one leftover in my stash from that same round of casks or did I acquire it in a separate bottle split? I can’t remember. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
The week and month got off to a great start on Monday with the 2021 release of the Springbank 10. Here now is another official distillery release, the Clynelish 14, once one of only two releases from the distillery (along with the rarely seen Distiller’s edition). When I first started drinking single malt whisky this was one of my very favourite whiskies. I remember purchasing a bottle along with one of the Lagavulin 16 from Astor in New York in the mid-2000s. Thanks to Astor’s then seemingly permanent Lagavulin sale I got both for $100. Anyway, though I liked it very much in those days, I’ve lost track of the Clynelish 14 in the last several years. Indeed, I haven’t reviewed it since 2014 and that was of a bottle purchased before 2010. And so I was very happy to take the opportunity to reacquaint myself with a recent release (this is from 2018). Let’s see what it’s like.
This week of reviews of peated whiskies began on Monday with an indie Port Charlotte that is said to have some sherry involvement. It continued on Wednesday with the 2018 release of the official Ledaig 10 that may or may not have sherry casks in the vatting. Here to close out the week is another indie that is unambiguously sherried. Indeed it’s from a single sherry butt and a first-fill butt at that. It’s a 10 yo Ballechin—or peated Edradour—from Signatory, who’ve bottled a number of sherried Ballechins of this general age in the last few years. I’ve liked the ones I’ve tried and so have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out.
It just struck me, by the way, that this week ended up having a secondary theme: not only were these all peated whiskies but they’re all the heavily peated variants from distilleries that are at least nominally known for unpeated/lightly peated malt. Continue reading
It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a distillery release of Ledaig. Almost 7 years, in fact: I reviewed the Ledaig 15 in 2015, which was not exactly a current release at the time. In fact, I’ve only ever reviewed one other official Ledaig and that was the 2014 release of the Ledaig 10 which was then already the version in the new updated lineup from the distillery, bottled at 46.3% and not chill-filtered and so forth. I liked the palate on that one but found too much rubbery smoke on the nose. Since then I’ve reviewed a lot of independent releases of Ledaigs of that general age—there have been a lot of them about, especially from sherry casks and especially from Signatory. Some of those indie releases have been rather good indeed. I can’t say I had an active curiosity about the official releases—which now also include an 18 yo and an inevitable NAS bottle—but when the opportunity presented itself to try a relatively recent release (this is from 2018) I went for it anyway. Let’s see if I like it more than the previous. Continue reading
Port and peat week started at Bunnahabhain on Monday. That was an 8 yo that spent 5 years or so in ex-bourbon casks and the rest of the time in ex-tawny port casks. I’d call that a proper double maturation. That cask was bottled by Cadenhead and I rather liked it. Today I have for you another 8 yo and another whisky from an Islay distillery. It’s from Kilchoman and is an official release (are there any indie Kilchomans?). This one is billed as a ruby port finish. As to whether that means it spent just a few months in the port cask or quite a bit longer than that, I don’t know. It was released in the US as part of the “Cask Evolution” series by Impex, who are Kilchoman’s importers in the country. (And no, I have no idea what the other releases in this “Cask Evolution” series are or what the concept of the series is supposed to be.) Will this be as good as Monday’s Bunnahabhain or will my general fears of port cask whiskies and finishes—to say nothing of port cask finishes—be realized? Only one way to find out. Continue reading
After a week of wacky mezcals—which began with one distilled with Iberico ham and ended with one distilled with mole poblano—let’s do a week of wacky single malts. Well, not really that wacky. These are all whiskies that involved port cask maturation or finishes. They’re also, as it happens, all peated whiskies. I’m not generally a fan of port cask maturation but—as I believe I’ve noted before—I think it’s in a marriage with heavy peat that it shows to its best advantage. Bunnahabhain may not be what you think of when you read the words “heavy peat”…or maybe that isn’t true anymore given how much peated Bunnahabhain, indie and official, has hit the market in the last decade. At any rate this is peated Bunnahabhain. It is eight years old. It was distilled in 2013 and spent five years or so in a bourbon cask and then three years or so in a tawny port cask. That pretty much counts as double maturation in my book. And hopefully that means the usual problems of wine finishes will be held at bay. Let’s see. Continue reading
Who better than someone who knows almost nothing about mezcals to do a week of reviews of mezcals? No one, that’s who. I’ve only reviewed one mezcal previously and have not tasted so very many more than that. The one I previously reviewed was bottled by Del Maguey, the brand that has probably more than any other raised the profile of mezcal in the US in the last decade, especially among whisky drinkers. They bottle single village mezcals made in traditional ways and have a sterling reputation. Well, this one—made in the village of Santa Catarina Minas—is both traditional and not. Traditional in that it is generally in the pechuga style, which sees a final round of distillation with a chicken or turkey breast hanging over the clay still (plus various fruits etc.). Not traditional in that in this case the chicken/turkey breast was replaced by an Iberico ham. This was apparently suggested to the proprietors by a chef who also sent them the ham to use. Perhaps the fact that it was Iberico ham accounts for the nosebleed price of this mezcal. I’m not sure if it was a one-off or if it’s continued to be made in limited quantities but if you want to buy a bottle now you’ll have to be prepared to shell out $200 or more. I’m not going to be prepared to do this, no matter what, but I am curious to see what it’s like. Continue reading
I must apologize for lying to you. On Monday I said that all three of this week’s reviews would be of 20 yo Ben Nevises distilled in 1997. This was true of Monday’s Berry Bros. & Rudd cask and also of Wednesday’s Exclusive Malts cask. But it turns out that this one—bottled by The Daily Dram—was actually distilled in 1999. It is a Ben Nevis though and 20 years old, which means I’m only 33% a liar. It’s also different from the other two in that while those were both sherry casks—well, the Berry Bros. cask does not specify but it seems pretty obviously a sherry cask—this one is not. Okay, so this one does not specify the cask type either but by the looks of it this seems very much like an ex-bourbon cask. Will it be more quintessentially Ben Nevis than the other two were? I did like both of those but felt the sherry covered up the Ben Nevis funk a bit too much. In theory, at least, the bourbon cask should let more of that out. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading
Another day, another 20 year old Ben Nevis distilled in 1997. Monday’s iteration was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd; today’s was bottled by the Exclusive Malts/Creative Whisky Company. If I’m not mistaken the company is now defunct (a thousand apologies if that’s not true). Unlike Berry Bros. & Rudd, they specified the cask type: a refill sherry hogshead. I hazarded the opinion on Monday that the Berry Bros. & Rudd cask might also have been refill sherry. Let’s see if I like this one as much as I did that one.
Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (51.9%; The Exclusive Malts; refill sherry hogshead #38; from a bottle split)
Nose: Musty oak off the top and quite a bit of it; a leafy quality too (like damp, rotting leaves). On the second sniff the oak turns to cedar and some sweet orange begins to push its way out. As it sits the citrus becomes more tart/acidic and there’s a mineral, slightly chalky edge to it. With time the oak more or less fades here and is replaced by sweeter notes of butterscotch and brown sugar. Fruitier with water as the orange is joined by some papaya and hints of tart-sweet mango. Continue reading
Let’s start the month with a trio of Ben Nevis. After that we’ll be ready for anything. All three that I’ll be reviewing this week are 20 years old and distilled in 1997. I’m curious to see how much variation there will be across the set. First up, a cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd, a name that is generally a reliable marker of baseline quality. True to form, they do not specify the cask type but, as you’ll see, I have a guess.
Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)
Nose: That very Ben Nevis mix of ginger, salted nuts, white pepper and malt off the top. On the second sniff there’s a faint whiff of diesel as well plus bright citrus. Continues in this general vein. With water there’s the diesel turns to paraffin and the ginger and citrus turn to citronella. Continue reading
After two weeks of peated whiskies (a week at Ardmore and then a week on Islay, at Caol Ila, Laphroaig and Bowmore) let’s end the month with what should be a pair of milder Speysiders. First up. a bourbon cask Glen Grant, distilled in 1993 and bottled at 13 years of age by James MacArthur (are they still around?).
Glen Grant 13, 1993 (57.7%; James MacArthur; bourbon cask 121926; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Tart fruit off the top (a mix of apples/cider and orange) along with some oak and a bit of chalk. Maltier with a bit of air and the fruit turns a bit muskier (over-ripe pear, a hint of pineapple). The oak turns first resinous and then leafy and the citrus gets tarter (lime now rather than orange, some of it makrut lime). With time and air the musky fruit and the malt expand. Water pushes the acid and oak back and brings out more of the sweet fruit along with some cream. Continue reading
Today is the ninth anniversary of my blog’s launch. I had no particular thoughts then—that I can remember at any rate—of how long I’d keep it going but nine years seems quite long. When Sku signed off from his blog after it turned 10 I’d thought I might one-up him and end mine when it turned nine. But don’t get your hopes up: I’m not going to. I don’t know how many more years I’ll keep at it but for now I’m still enjoying blogging—especially with the dual food and whisky focus, and the occasional foray into other things. I know that I’ve lost many of my original whisky readers with the diluted focus on whisky after the first couple of years. I do very much appreciate those of you who’ve stuck with the blog no matter when you happened on it, whether whisky or food is your prime interest. I’ve never been a volume reviewer of whisky—in the first year or so I posted a whisky review every day but I couldn’t keep that up very long. It’s been three reviews a week for a long time now and it’ll stay that way. My practice of only reviewing what I choose to drink and not accepting commercial samples will also continue. And my reviews of restaurant meals—in the Twin Cities metro and beyond—will also continue to be independent and will doubtless continue to win me more friends online as my recent review of Owamni did on Facebook; I’m glad to have at least a few blog readers who find those reviews of value (whether you agree or disagree). To those who cook from the recipes I post I feel perhaps the greatest gratitude—for in a sense letting me into your kitchen and making some of what we eat part of your own and your family’s repertoires.
But enough cloying sentiment! It’s been a tradition for every blog anniversary to be marked with a Bowmore review—as my first review happened to be of a lowly Bowmore—and so it will be this year as well. Continue reading
Monday’s Caol Ila was a bit disappointing. Today’s Laphroaig is a year older, also from a bourbon cask and bottled by the Laing outfit that owns the Old Malt Cask label. I was not very enthused by the last Laphroaig 12 from OMC that I reviewed—one of their 20th anniversary releases. I hope this one, distilled a couple of years earlier, will be a lot better.
Laphroaig 12, 2004 (50.5%; OMC; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Bright carbolic peat off the top; quite a bit of Dettol and also a cereal sweetness. With the second sniff citrus begins to expand (lime) and then it begins to get increasingly coastal (brine, seashells). With more time there’s a hint of vanilla. A bit more of the vanilla with water but it melds well with the lime and the smoke and avoids becoming cloying. With time there’s some citronella as well. Continue reading
It’s something I’ve never had before: a 2021 release of Woodford Reserve’s so-called Masters Collection, released at batch proof. I say “a 2021 release” because even though this is—I think—an annual release, there seem to have been two put out in 2021 at different strengths. I’ve seen an allusion to this one perhaps having been a Costco exclusive but I cannot confirm this. If you know more about this, please write in below. I’m sure this was a disappointment to some/many bourbon drinkers for being bottled at less than 60% abv but I have to say I am a big fan of not putting out whiskey at ludicrous strengths. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Okay, for the first full week of reviews in March let’s do a week of things that are not single malt whisky. I’ll start with a rum that has an unlikely whisky connection. As we all know, it’s not very unusual anymore to see whiskies that have been “finished” or double matured in rum casks. What I have for you today, however, is something that goes in the opposite direction: it’s rum that was finished in an Islay cask. The rum in question is from Panama, though I believe Grander is the brand name of an independent bottler rather than a distiller. This rum was matured for 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask—which is fairly par for the course for rum—but then finished for an additional year in an Islay cask (the rumour is that the cask in question was from Ardbeg). As to where the finishing happened—at the distillery in Panama or elsewhere, I’m not sure. It’s a bit embarrassing that I don’t know, considering I’m a member of the private group for which this was bottled. I will make it my life’s work to find this out sometime in the next 10 days to 10 years. In the meantime, here are my notes on this chimerical creature. (The bottle was opened a while ago; these notes are from my fourth or fifth pour.) Continue reading
The first edition of the Tomatin Decades was released in 2011 and put together by their Master Distiller, Douglas Campbell to mark his five decades at the distillery. The vatting comprised casks from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. They ranged from 5-6 years of age all the way to 43-44 years of age. And they were a mix of cask types: refill sherry hogsheads, oloroso sherry butts, first-fill bourbon hogsheads. (The refill sherry hogsheads were from 1967 in case you’re wondering—the practice of breaking butts down and re-coopering them as smaller hogsheads is obviously not anything new.) As far as I know, it was never disclosed what the proportion of spirits of different ages and cask types was. And as was not unusual for Tomatin in that era, it was released at 46% abv. Also not unusual for that era was the price. If you came to single malt whisky more recently you may want to avert your eyes. This went for all of about $90 in 2011. There was a second release some years later. I know nothing about that one. Continue reading
Alright, let’s keep highlands whisky week moving. My first review in February was of a Glen Ord and my first review of March is also of a Glen Ord. I rather liked that 11 yo from Cadenhead and am hoping this 9 yo from Signatory—bottled at an eye-watering 61.1%—will be as good. This one is from a bourbon barrel, and a first-fill barrel at that. Hopefully, that does not indicate very heavy oak influence. Let’s see.
Glen Ord 9, 2011 (61.1% Signatory; first-fill bourbon barrel 800324; from a bottle split)
Nose: Apple to start here too but much sweeter than in last month’s 11 yo and mixed with cereals, malt and candied lemon peel. As it sits some oak emerges as well and then it begins to get maltier and muskier with overripe pear joining the apple. With more time and air there’s some sweet melon and the malt expands as well, picking up some cream. With water the oak recedes and the malt and musky fruit expand; there’s some ripe berries in there too (for my South Asian readers: ber). Continue reading